The most memorable moment on Jason Aldean's fifth album, "Night Train" (Broken Bow), comes in "1994" where the Georgia native starts chanting "Hey! Joe! Joe! Joe Diffie!" like he was doing House of Pain's "Jump Around."
It's a cool image, name-dropping a classic country artist as a way to show how fully Aldean has embraced hip-hop in some of his music. The importance of classic rock, especially guitar solos, to Aldean is even more pronounced on this album.
However, that doesn't take away from his country appeal, seen best in the touching, well-crafted ballads "I Don't Do Lonely Well" and "Drink One for Me." In many ways, the variety he creates enhances it.
The rock influence -- along with the mouthful-of-syllables chorus Aldean spits out in a way usually reserved for R&B singers -- is a big part of "When She Says Baby." Before he starts singing on "Feel That Again," the guitar riffs could have signaled a song from anyone from Bon Jovi to Smashing Pumpkins to Daughtry, while the middle of the new single "Take a Little Ride" stomps like a number of Southern rockers.
The combination is an important way to show that country isn't isolating itself from the rest of pop culture any more. Aldean, who is much more than his recent TMZ-generated notoriety would suggest, has taken that mix the farthest among country's elite singers -- though Taylor Swift does have a dubstep influence on one of her new songs -- and "Night Train" shows no sign of slowing him down.
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BOTTOM LINE Bringing rock and rap (!) into mainstream country